Ryan Markel

Open 17.2

Well, this was definitely a thing.

The Workout (Scaled)

12-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible):

  • 2 rounds of:
    • 50-ft. weighted walking lunge
    • 16 hanging knee-raises
    • 8 power cleans
  • Then, 2 rounds of:
    • 50-ft. weighted walking lunge
    • 16 chin-over-bar pull-ups
    • 8 power cleans

Alternate between hanging knee-raises and chin-over-bar pull-ups every 2 rounds.

Dumbbell weight is 35 pounds.

Results

39 reps, which is only halfway through the second round’s worth of lunges.

This was a pretty bad one for me just because of the lunges. At first, I thought this wouldn’t be horrible and I was just thinking that I would get to the pull-ups and then have to stop scoring at that mark because I still can’t manage a single pull-up.

But instead, I had neglected to realize that doing lunges with a 290-pound frame while putting two 35-pound dumbbells on your shoulders is not easy. I had to psych myself up for almost every one of them, twice forgot which lead leg was next, and a few times got down in the lunge and then just couldn’t get back out of it. I might have done better if I had thought more about the lunges and less about hating the pull-up requirement.

Apply the same weight-based knowledge to my knee raise grip and that’s a decent start. At least my power cleans were unbroken? And I didn’t tap out.

I’m not sure I’m happy with myself this week. I gave it a lot of fight, especially at the end, so maybe this is just not a workout I can get much further in. My legs are sure feeling it right now. (I hate stairs.)

Progress

I mentioned last week that I was upping my activity to every day; here’s how it’s going:

Attendance: I missed this past Thursday because I didn’t have the car for most of the day and couldn’t get up early enough after going to see a concert the night before. It was active recovery day, so I got out and moved a bunch instead and so today when it came time for the Open workout, I didn’t feel too bad. Hit every other day, though.

Muscles: Holy crap, uh, this is a new level of soreness. Sunday morning after 17.1 was the worst. The interesting thing is that it’s not the “I don’t want to get out of bed” level of soreness I was seeing when I was going two days a week. This is more just soreness distributed more evenly throughout my body, and at a low level but it’s always there. I will say that in general, I feel better than I did when I was not going as much in a given week.

Stats: One new PR (2-rep power snatch). Weight is actually up a bit, which you know, whatever, I guess?

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 15.50.39

I was hoping to see at least some weight loss in the first couple of weeks after making this change, but so far that’s not panning out, which (at least for my state of mind) sucks. But my Withings body fat mass measurement is doing this:

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 15.50.59

So you know, whatever? The human body is weird.

Open 17.1

I haven’t written much of anything about Crossfit and my journey for about two years, so in the aftermath of the first workout of the 2017 Open, I thought I’d say a few things and talk about what I have been doing and what I’m going to do.

I purposefully avoided talking about this in my birthday post for the year or my year recap, but with the Open in full swing it seemed a good time to make some changes.

What’s This “Open” Thing?

I’ll keep this short. Every year, Crossfit as an organization holds open qualifiers for the Crossfit games. For five weeks, every Crossfit affiliate holds exactly the same workouts for every member athlete in the world. The workouts are usually demanding and tough and over the course of the five weeks will measure pretty much every way you can measure athletic ability.

17.1 is the first week’s workout of 2017.

It’s a bit crazy, but one of the neat things about it is that for five days each year, I get to do exactly the same workout as the other Crossfitters at work, since we are fully distributed and I don’t live near anyone else. If you set yourself to it, it can be a lot of fun.

Results

First, some words about 17.1, which is a workout not made for beef. To preserve any chance I had at getting some real work in, I did the scaled version:

For Time (20-minute cap):

  • 10 DB snatches @ 35#
  • 15 burpee box step-overs @ 20″
  • 20 DB snatches @ 35#
  • 15 burpee box step-overs @ 20″
  • 30 DB snatches @ 35#
  • 15 burpee box step-overs @ 20″
  • 40 DB snatches @ 35#
  • 15 burpee box step-overs @ 20″
  • 50 DB snatches @ 35#
  • 15 burpee box step-overs @ 20″

I time capped at 105 reps, which is the first three rounds. I tried for some additional snatches into the fourth round, but was just completely out of fuel in the tank. I didn’t really expect to do more than those three rounds, because at my weight, that many burpees with box overs is just a lot of moving your own body, something I’m very, very bad at in terms of exercise types.

After it was over, my judging coach took this picture, which is what I want to talk about a bit today in terms of changes I’m making with my regimen and some disappointments I have with myself over the last two years:

And so:

Two Years

In the past two years, I have attended between 2 and 3 times per week in an average week. I miss some weeks completely due to work or vacation, but when I’m home, I go for the most part.

In those two years, this is what my weight has done:

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 14.52.03

I cannot even begin to describe how massively frustrating this has been to me and continues to be today. In that picture I reposted above, it’s pretty clear that all of my weight sticks in the same spot on my body, and whenever I think about it, I find it alarmingly embarrassing.

It also, due to my diabetes, is likely to be the thing that kills me unless I am able to do something about it.

People have told me over the last two years that I look better than I did before. I’ll be honest—and this is not a fish for a compliment—I don’t see it, because I have a hard time seeing past both that number and the size of my midsection. I haven’t lost a shirt size. I haven’t lost more than a single belt notch. It’s demoralizing.

With the Open coming up, I figured I should make a choice. I either needed to just stop doing it and treading water, feeling like I’m not improving, or I needed to up my game and see what would happen.

So I’m Upping My Game.

Starting this week, I’m actively trying to increase my attendance frequency from two to three times per week to every weekday. I have paid lip service to this idea before, but have always chickened out from it and used my post-workout soreness as an excuse.

Instead, I’m using the Open as an excuse to start going every day and making a real effort at this thing. I suppose the worst that happens is that I’ll just be able to move my heavy weight around better than before.

I did this over this week. There hasn’t been a drastic change in my weight, which I suppose I hadn’t expected anyway because change takes time (even more than the two-plus years I have put in already).

With any luck, I’ll start seeing some kind of positive movement over the five weeks of the Open, and to try to record this, I’ll keep making update posts here once a week talking about my experience.

I’ll apologize for any complaining you hear from me in the meantime. The first week was pretty rough and by the end of it today, I didn’t have much left in the tank. Hopefully, next week will be better.

“High Performance” versus Listening to Employees

Like you needed another reason to think Uber was a hot mess you should avoid at all costs, but for other reasons, you should read this account from Susan Fowler regarding her year working at Uber and the rather horrible treatment she received at the hands of HR and some of her colleagues there:

When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%. Women were transferring out of the organization, and those who couldn’t transfer were quitting or preparing to quit. There were two major reasons for this: there was the organizational chaos, and there was also the sexism within the organization. When I asked our director at an org all-hands about what was being done about the dwindling numbers of women in the org compared to the rest of the company, his reply was, in a nutshell, that the women of Uber just needed to step up and be better engineers.

It includes a story regarding a case of sexual harassment that happened almost immediately after she was hired:

When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.

I hear from people from time to time that HR departments in general are not hired to do what is best for employees, but what is best for the company.

Don’t let your company decide that “high performance” is more valuable to you than a safe and inclusive place to work that treats other people with respect. A workplace that respects everyone who works there will generate a better company long-term.

(By the way, this also has some parallels to similar things that have happened within the fighting game community. Just because people are top players or have only committed their “first offense” does not mean we should go easy on them for violating decency and harassing others.)

Thirty-Seven

Another year; another winter vacation has come and gone, and with it the marking of another year of my trying to figure my way through this life thing as best I can.

2016 was a weird year; a lot of it felt pretty aimless and even a bit disconcerting. It felt kind of like one of those days you have when you work a lot and you know you were really busy, but you have a hard time feeling like you accomplished much in the end.

With each month that passes now I realize slowly that I am no longer in that phase of my life where I am parenting very small children, and I’m adjusting to the fact that I’m going to be parenting teenagers for many years now. I find I will miss the tiny little humans part of my life, because by the time we were done with that part, we had become pretty good at it.

And I have no real clue how to parent teenagers. It probably involves a little booze and a lot of hoping and praying that you are teaching your children not to be jackasses and to be compassionate humans. It’s definitely going to be an adventure. I think—so far—we are doing a pretty good job. My children are very fascinating people who share a lot of my idiosyncrasies and are starting to discover who they are and who they want to be. I can’t wait to find out where those journeys take them.

It was also the year I witnessed my wife find a new confidence in herself and who she is. It serves only to make her more attractive and wonderful to me, and I am gifted with her presence in my life. She makes me a better person. She also went above and beyond for my birthday today, making an amazing turkey dinner. It was delicious.

I could not imagine my life without my family. They are amazing people and I find myself wondering constantly what I have done to deserve them.

I posted previously regarding my goals for 2017 here and here, so I won’t belabor them much more in these words. It is enough to say that I am hoping to increase my personal skills in a few ways and to do good things for the communities of which I am a member.

In just over a week, I’ll be celebrating seven years with Automattic, which is crazy to think about. I’ll write more about that when it happens, but it’s probably the craziest chance I ever took with my professional career, and it’s paid off in spades. I have amazing and talented colleagues who inspire me to be better every day, and I can only hope to work alongside them for many years to come.

2017 carries a lot of uncertainty for a lot of reasons. It’s impossible to know where it will lead. Here’s to hoping it’s full of new opportunities, lots of learning, and continued self-improvement.

(If you want to give me a birthday present, follow my Twitch channel. You’ll see me there more often this year if I have anything to say about it.)

2017 Addendum

Things I left out of my 2017 goals because I either think they are a stretch too far, or I think they are poor choices for goals:

  • Stream more often, at least once a week: I just never seem to feel up to the task of doing this. I promised myself about mid-year last year that I would do more of this, and I failed horribly at it. So I’m going to try to do it more, but I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t make it.
  • Any specific weight goal: I touched on this earlier, but I think at this point in my life this is just counter-productive. I set goals for it, and then when I don’t meet them, I end up stress eating, which just sets me back further. I think it’s much better to focus on the underlying stuff that will help my health than focus on a weight number.
  • Work towards a St. Louis FGC yearly in 2018: Let’s face it; 2018 is the earliest this could even be a thing. And it will take a minor miracle to build up something new that would be able to support such a thing. More than one person has waved me off from even the idea of trying to do this. But it’s in my mind. 2017 is the year I either help boost the local FGC or make every player in St. Louis mad at me for trying. As with streaming, if this starts coalescing, I am not going to complain and I’m going to dedicate myself to the concept. But if it’s still too far off, I won’t be disappointed in it, because I know it’s possible the local community is not ready for it.
  • Speak at more WordCamps: This is something I would love to do, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to properly devote the time to it amongst the other things. If you want me to speak at your WordCamp, you should contact me, but I am not going to actively seek this out because in the time I have available, this is probably the first thing that’s going to go.
  • Blog more regularly: If I had a dime for every time I thought I should do this, I wouldn’t have to work. :)

I think what goals you don’t explicitly set for yourself are just as important as the ones you do. These things are my “nice-to-haves” for 2017, but the real stuff I want to get to over the next 12 months is detailed in my previous post.

Twenty Seventeen

I was going to use tonight to lament the fact that I didn’t reach much in the way of my goals this year, but then this happened:

So instead, I figured I’d talk a bit about my hopes for the next year. 2016 was a weird one, and for at least myself it felt like a lot of treading water. I want more out of myself in 2017. So in no particular order, here are some things I want for myself, loosely defined so it’s harder to be disappointed in another year:

  • Eat better. I did not make nearly the progress on my personal health this year I’d hoped for. Part of it is that my gym attendance hasn’t been stellar, but the other part—what I think is the bigger part—is that I didn’t shift my eating habits enough. Too much eating out, not enough moderation, still too much drinking diet sodas and not enough water. I’m also hoping to boost my gym attendance, but changing my eating to be more sensible will probably make a bigger change in my weight, health, and energy levels. I’m diabetic, but I still don’t eat in a way that addresses that properly. (I also think that setting this expectation is healthier for me than setting a specific weight goal.)
  • Learn JavaScript. I have a working (but not really proficient) knowledge of PHP that helps me in my line of work, but I have zero understanding of JavaScript and how it works or how to write anything with it. The future is going to slide even further towards things like single-page apps and more dynamic web interfaces. I believe I can succeed at this because it also has a passion project motivation, tied up in my last goal.
  • Be a positive force in the fighting game community. I’m leaving this goal super vague because I do not yet know how or if I will succeed, but I have already made some moves to try to accomplish things, ranked from easiest to accomplish to hardest:
    • I am going to play less and volunteer more at Combo Breaker in 2017. I do this because I had a fantastic time helping other people have a good experience, and because by helping more, I can learn things from the best. At least as a player, attending more than one major event a year is not feasible for me. I need to maximize my opportunity this year, and that means helping, listening, and learning.
    • The JavaScript passion project I spoke of above is learning to work with NodeCG next year and how to integrate it well with OBS for broadcasting. NodeCG has a lot of promise for applications in the FGC, and I’d like to explore that and maybe bring some new things to the streaming table.
    • The St. Louis FGC scene (well, the non-Smash part of it) ran into some rough days in late 2016. Earlier in the year, I had asked some people I trust about the scene, and to be frank, there weren’t too many good things said to me about the StL community in those conversations, and that’s a shame. I’d like to help make some positive change here. I am already sending out inquiries to find a suitable venue for a monthly, and I’ve been doing some work at leveling up my streaming chops to make sure I can present the St. Louis community well. I do not know if I’ll be successful, but at the very least, I can and will try.

That’s what I’m hoping for out of my upcoming year. All I can realistically plan for myself is to give it a shot and see what happens. I might fail. I might find more of my own shortcomings. And that would be OK.

If you see me talking about these things next year, nudge me and ask me how I’m doing. Or I might be asking you from time to time about these things to try to learn from you as I go.

Here’s to leveling up in 2017.